South Carolina lawmakers have set aside plenty of time this year for debating measures that don’t have a chance of passing – or that any attorney knows will be unconstitutional.
These are bills they know, before debate even begins, won’t get enough votes to pass. Or, if they do pass, will be struck down by the courts.
And make no mistake – our legislators aren’t doing this on their days off. We are paying them to waste time and money that could instead be spent passing laws that matter, that are constitutional, and that will make the lives of SC residents better.
Who Cares About the Courts, Let’s Ban Gay Marriage!
Lawmakers will take up a bill classifying any marriage that is not between one woman and one man as a “parody marriage.”
Two men take wedding vows? It’s not real, it’s just a “parody marriage” and should not be treated like the real thing under state law.
First, this is petty, hateful, and insulting. Beyond that, it’s a massive waste of time. The United States Supreme Court in 2015 ruled that all states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex marriages performed in their own or in any other jurisdiction.
There is no wiggle room here – states can no longer just decide that a legal marriage isn’t real. They can’t just decide that people’s relationships are “parodies” when the law says they are legitimate.
Even if the bill passed, the courts have already held that it is unconstitutional…
Roe Who? Let’s Ban Abortion!
State senators will also take up a bill that would effectively ban all abortions. The measure declares that life begins at conception and that embryos have all the same rights as the rest of us.
Even though the idea is clearly unconstitutional, this is not the first time the proposal has come up in the state. It has never passed, but plenty of time has been spent debating it.
The US Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that women have the right to have an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. This right must be balanced against the states’ rights to regulate the procedure, but the government cannot simply ban all abortions. Efforts by other states to ban or seriously restrict the right to an abortion have been struck down by the courts.
Despite decades of law making it crystal clear that a bill like this is unconstitutional, our state legislators are still wasting their time drafting, debating, and trying to pass a bill that can never be enforced.
This Bill Doesn’t Have A Prayer…
In the House, lawmakers are pushing a bill that would allow teachers to pray in front of their students at school.
Again, this has been addressed repeatedly by the Supreme Court. In the early 1960s, the high court ruled that prayer led by school officials violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
Twenty years later, in 1985, the court struck down an Alabama law permitting silent school prayers for the same reason. In 1995, the Supreme Court further clarified the prayer-in-schools issue when it ruled that even student-led prayers before extracurricular activities violate the First Amendment.
Again, how much time has our legislature spent drafting, debating, and trying to pass a law that has 0 chance of being enforced? A law that, if it is passed, will take up even more time and resources as attorneys who have actually read the Constitution litigate it through the courts to a foregone conclusion based on decades of precedent?
The Real Problem Is Saggy Pants!
House members seem to be backing away from another waste-of-time-and-money bill – a measure that would make it illegal to wear saggy pants.
Yes, the people we elect and pay to run our government and craft meaningful legislation spent their time coming up with an exact measurement for the illegal wearing of pants – “three inches below the crest of his ileum” (the ileum is the top of the hip bone).
Police officers will now carry a ruler so that they can carefully measure the distance of each black man’s pant-top from the crest of his ileum?
Why are Legislators Spinning Their Wheels on Ineffectual Bills?
So, if these bills have no chance of surviving either a vote or the scrutiny of the courts, why are lawmakers pushing them?
It’s simple: Political posturing and public relations. In a conservative state like South Carolina, taking a public stand against gay marriage or abortion – no matter how ineffective – can win a lot of votes. Pushing for prayer in schools wins the support of the Christian Right.
And supporting a measure to ban baggy pants – a style closely associated with young African-American men – will likely score points with our state’s racist voters, and there are plenty of them.
Great – of course politicians want to get re-elected. What’s the problem? We don’t pay lawmakers to campaign or to put together public relations stunts. They are not being paid to propose doomed-from-the-start legislation just to score points with their political base.
Instead of posturing and wasting their time and our money, our lawmakers need to address real issues with real solutions. Why are the House and Senate not taking action to protect our children from school shootings? Why aren’t they addressing the fact that in many of the state’s courtrooms, poor defendants are being denied their right to an attorney? Why aren’t they talking about the dismal pay that SC’s teachers struggle to survive on?
What else is overlooked in the interest of waging a doomed ultra-conservative war against the U.S. Constitution?
SC Criminal Defense Attorney in Myrtle Beach
Attorney Daniel A. Selwa, II is a SC criminal defense lawyer who represents clients in Myrtle Beach, Conway, Horry County, and the surrounding area. Call today at (843) 492-5449 or fill out our online contact form to set up a free consultation to discuss your case.